Monday, March 28, 2011

Slow and Steady Get Me Ready, A Rich Resource Review

When Luke and Nina were little, I borrowed a copy of Slow and Steady Get Me Ready: The How-To Book That Grows with Your Child by June R. Oberlander from our local library.  I liked it and intended to take it out more often, but neglected to do so.  So, when Jack came along, I used a Borders gift card to purchase the book.

Unfortunately, once the book came in, I set it aside “for now” and have just recently uncovered it.  I could kick myself for my disorganization and for not using it from the get-go with all my children and can say that I fully intend to start using it more regularly from now on.  It fits in nicely with the Montessori-inspired homeschool philosophy I increasingly want to employ at home and it also meshes well with Classical Education, which is another piece of our homeschool inspiration.
Slow and Steady Get Me Ready is a straightforward, easy-to-use resource and, perhaps, one of the least inexpensive guides out there for parents and grandparents that want to provide opportunities for their pre-k children’s learning and development at home. For more information about the book, read on.

Slow and Steady Get Me Ready
* * * *
Slow and Steady Get Me Ready is a very easy read, although it’s not really a book to read all at once due to its rather matter-of-fact and humorless (for lack of a better word) style. Instead, I recommend reading its introduction, browsing it, and, then, picking it up week-to-week, as needed, to glean easy-to-implement ideas that are within your child’s developmental stage.  In fact, that is exactly how the book is organized – with one activity per week for you and your child to explore from your child’s birth to his or her fifth birthday.

Also of note, while some might say that both the writing and illustrations in the book are too simplistic, even bordering on boring, I disagree.  As a busy, tired mom juggling homeschooling with working part-time with, well, you name it, I find the simple style just right.  When accessing Slow and Steady Get Me Ready, my sometimes overtaxed brain does not have to work to digest much.  I can simply read, prepare and go.

I have two children under five and one not yet six.  The book is targeted for children from birth to age five.  In doing so, it provides 260 quick ideas for enhancing young children’s learning and development as well as a series of quick-check pages for parents to use in assessing their child(ren)’s progress.  To me, that makes it relevant.

Plus, I like that each activity in the book is not only described in a straightforward manner, but also includes a bulleted list that highlights what the activity develops.  For example, awareness of the concepts of “in” and “out, tactile enhancement, skill in visual observation or matching one to one.  In doing so, the book not only provides a tested activity to develop specific skills (in very Montessori and Classic Education friendly way), but it also gives me food for thought about what skills and knowledge I might focus on when planning other activities – or even simply reflecting on free playtime – with my children.

That said, for me, the book has two possible drawbacks:

  1. The last year of activities in it is based on “number” and “letter of the week”.  While this is a popular model in homeschools and traditional schools, it is not one I subscribe to.  I prefer a different approach to literacy.  (Still, it never hurts to have some simple ideas to pull out as reinforcement at a moment’s notice.)
  2. If you know very little about child development and are a caretaker that is easily worried, this book could throw you off.  Since it is laid out with only one activity per week, each targeting a specific developmental milestone, it does not account well for the wide variation in children’s rates of development.  So, the uninformed reader might begin to believe, say, that an infant has a hearing problem if he is not responding to certain stimuli within activities by a certain week or that another child, who is not as verbal as others at a particular week, may have issues.  The flip side of this, however, is that within its seemingly inflexible framework, the book presents a worthwhile “measuring stick” for seeing where your child could be at a certain age.  (I tend to look at the book in terms of months or even quarter years, not weeks.)
So, despite the fact that I think Slow and Steady Get Me Ready is quite relevant to my children’s ages and stages, because of the fact that it doesn’t provide much beyond number- and letter-of-the-week for children ages 4 and up (of which I have one and will have another in a couple months), and because I can see how the structure of the book might mislead some readers, I am only giving it a half-star for Relevance.

While I have seen a few people complain that Slow and Steady Get Me Ready is unnecessary (because any creative parent can think of many of the activities in it – or equivalent ones – on their own) and insulting (because it does not account for the differences in children’s developments due to the supposed expectations laid out through the weekly nature of its organization), I find the book is quite a practical resource.  As a former educator, and one who worked in early education for a while even, much of what the book offers is not “brand new” to me.  However, it is helpful! 

You see, as a teacher, I had dedicated planning time.  As a parent, I seldom do and even more infrequently have time to reflect and make assessments.  With Slow and Steady Get Me Ready at hand, I don’t need to.  When I am feeling a bit worn, don’t have the wherewithal to plan an activity, but know that the kids need a little direction, all I need to do is open up to weeks close to the ones that match my children’s ages and easy-to-implement activities, that require little preparation, are laid out right there.   

Plus, when I start to wonder if my children are developmentally “on target” for their ages and stages, cannot remember what I learned in past classes and don’t feel like researching anything online, all I need to do is flip to the “Measurable Parameters to Profile Child Development” and “Measurable Parameters of Entrance into Kindergarten” lists at the back of the book, and, in simple one-page lists can “score” my children’s progress.

Additionally, when I crave a little “others are there, too” perspective, or need a few quick ideas about common infant, toddler and preschool “problem”  behavior, I simply need to flip to the end of the book, where there are brief but worthwhile “Tips for Solving Behavioral Dilemmas”.  Reading these, I often find my urge to begin bemoaning our family’s current challenges to a friend on the phone or to get caught up in long-winded online discussions dissipates.  The brief paragraphs on whatever the “dilemma” of our day is often provides just the feeling of affirmation or nugget wisdom I need to move on.

So, while I can see how some folks might balk that Slow and Steady Get Me Ready hardly “teaches” one how to interact with or educate their child(ren), I also realize that is not the book’s aim.  Instead, the book sets out to do exactly what it intends: It provides 260 easy-to-understand activities that use common household items and take only about ten minutes each to do (but, granted, sometimes a bit longer to construct the tools for) to guide caregivers in helping children to develop into kindergarten-ready youngsters.  To me, that’s pretty practical!

As with many books that target the younger years, Slow and Steady Get Me Ready can only earn a “longevity” star for those who buy it at the birth of a child and faithfully use it for the next five years, or for those working with young children regularly.  That said, because the book does not refer to popular videos, technology, characters, etc. and only requires the use of rather ubiquitous and/or recyclable goods to create any suggested tools for learning, it is pretty timeless

Timeless, that is, if you work with children who the types of activities in the book appeal to.  A bit Montessori-esque (which to some folks, like me, is a plus and to others a negative), Classical Education-friendly (in fact, the book is recommended in the popular Well Trained Mind) and very straight-forward, the activities presented in Slow and Steady Get Me Ready are good ones.  But, if you have children who are global learners, who love to pretend and who devour stories (like my eldest child), you may find the book lasts only as a supplementary one, not as a go-to one.  In all honesty, the activities may not sustain such children’s attention for long on a regular basis without additional input and ideas.

A * for VALUE
As I mentioned in my introduction, after previewing this book at the library and wishing I had it on hand more often, I purchased a copy.  At less than $20, with five years worth of ideas in it, I find it well worth its cost. 

Even if, like me, every idea in Slow and Steady Get Me Ready does not appeal to you, and if you know you can educate your child without it through simply talking with, playing with, reading to and answering your child’s curious questions in detail, the book is still a bargain at less than $4 a year.  As a handy source of supplementary ideas or a simple-curriculum base, it can work as a useful addition to your early childhood/parenting/grandparenting resource collection

Sure, you can find loads of free ideas online or purchase more creative and more “modern” curriculums and resources, but you cannot often find a relatively inexpensive all-in-one, hits-on-five-years-of-learning-and-developmental-goals in one easy-to-access volume resource that requires no bells, whistles, batteries or extraordinary effort.  Indeed, that is exactly what Slow and Steady Get Me Ready is -- worthwhile little volume that can be used even when the Internet is down, the bills are piling up, Mommy’s brain is overtaxed and kiddoes need some direction.

Slow and Steady Get Me Ready is a book I am glad I purchased.

(See my initial Rich Resource Review post to read more about my rating criteria.)

This review is being shared at  52 Books in 52 Weeks.  Please check out the links at each for further good reads and tips.


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